Timeline Offers Clues to Minnesota U.S. Attorney Mystery

Reporters and bloggers have been trying to figure out why Minnesota U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, a tough Republican prosecutor with 15 years and a number of commendations and awards from the Justice Department showed up on a list of U.S Attorneys to be fired. The other part of the puzzle is why Heffelfinger was replaced with Rachel Paulose, the kick-boxing, Bible-quoting friend of Monica Goodling. Eric Black, a reporter with the Star Tribune was not satisfied with the theory that the Bush Administration was displeased with Heffefinger’s advocacy for Native Americans. There is another, more likely reason.

Investigators might want to take a look at Tom Heffelfinger’s last public corruption target: Councilman (Gary) Dean Zimmermann.

What the investigation likely found was Zimmermann’s contacts with prominent, wealthy and influential right-wing Republicans.

The FBI tapes shown in open court during his trial showed Zimmermann soliciting and accepting large amounts of cash from an FBI cooperating witness, Gary Carlson. Carlson, a Hummer-driving developer who held a fund raiser for Norm Coleman in 2005. U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose who also donated money to Norm Coleman’s campaign refuses to release the Zimmermann tapes.

Perhaps Zimmermann’s computer served up a e-mails to and from prominent Republican politicians and donors. There were several prominent Republicans promoting PRT and the Taxi 2000 Corporation, donors and elected officials. Zimmermann also lobbied the Minneapolis Park Board for Crown Hydro, a company owned by William Hawks who held a fundraiser for Michele Bachmann in 2006 (special guest Dick Cheney).

Zimmmermann lobbied incessantly for Taxi 2000 while he was in office. Green Party office-holder, Annie Young asked back in 2004:

This is not a Green Party issue; this is Dean’s project. I’m concerned about his relationship to Taxi 2000, and about the time he’s spending on the project and whether he’s meeting the needs of the people in his ward. There are potentially some good things that could come from it, and I see what the point is but I’m not sure the timing is right. There are also a lot of questions about it, like why are the Republicans so interested in it?…

Joshua Frank said this about the strange alliance of Republicans and Greens to promote PRT:

Sounds odd. Are Republicans turning green on us? Or is the national Green Party losing its marbles? Sorry to say, it’s the latter.

One Republican politician who co-authored legislation for PRT and promoted PRT in the media was then State Senator, now Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Although Tom Heffelfinger insists he left voluntarily, the question remains: Who put Tom Heffelfinger’s name on the list of U.S. attorneys to be fired, and why?

We now know the assistant U.S. attorneys he left behind are very unhappy working for Paulose. But, with the exception of a recent open letter complaining about Paulose, they haven’t given the media any clues why Heffelfinger was put on a White House firing list and replaced with Rachel Paulose.

There is a pattern to which U.S. Attorneys ended up on the list. Dahlia Lithwick at Slate explains the reason for what happened in U.S. Attorney offices across the country:

There is only one narrative that works with the facts. The White House wanted party loyalists placed in either key battleground states, or in states where Republicans were being investigated or they thought Democrats should have been.

If that’s so, the White House should have been pleased with Tom Heffelfinger, Heffelfinger successfully prosecuted Democrats such as former Minneapolis City Council members Brian Heron, Joe Biernat, and Loren Jennings, a former state representative.

After the raid on Zimmermann’s house, there seemed to be a problem… Heffelfinger called off a press conference.

According to then Fifth Congressional District Green Party chair Steven Eisenmenger:

Eisenmenger said two members of the Zimmermann campaign were subpoenaed to testify Monday before a Hennepin County grand jury, but were told Friday their appearances had been cancelled. He also questioned why U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger cancelled a Friday press conference where he was to release a statement on the case. “He should hand down an indictment or close the investigation,” Eisenmenger said. “It’s well within a citizen’s right to make this reasonable request in asking for that.”

Why did Heffelfinger cancel his press conference?

Did the raid on Zimmermann’s house yield information that complicated the investigation?

Were there any e-mails to prominent Republicans on Zimmermann’s hard drive that could have gotten Heffelfinger into trouble with loyal Bushie Monica “Buzzsaw” Goodling?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a timeline and see if the events point to an answer:

September 1991: April 1993: Thomas B. Heffelfinger’s first term as United States Attorney, District of Minnesota (appointed by President George H. W. Bush).

July 17, 2001: Minneapolis city council members Brian Herron indicted (taped by FBI accepting $10,000 bribe). Herron pleaded guilty and resigned.

September 2001: Tom Heffelfinger appointed by President George W. Bush to a second term as US Attorney for the District of Minnesota.

Nov. 7, 2001: R.T. Rybak and Zimmermann elected. Rybak campaigned with a gigantic green air freshener stating how city hall needed to have its air freshened with reform and a return to ethical standards of practice by its elected officials.

November 21, 2002: Councilman Joe Biernat convicted of five felony charges related to allegations he received free plumbing work in exchange for a vote.

September 9, 2004: Mayor RT Rybak casts his only veto in favor a Basim Sabri’s development. Zimmermann also supports Basim Sabri’s project.

December 2004: Basim Sabri convicted of three counts of bribery for trying to pay former City Council Member Brian Herron to help him with a controversial project on Lake Street.

May 18, 2005: FBI agents meet with a cooperating witness (Gary Carlson) about Zimmermann.

May ? 2005: In an FBI tape, Carlson mentioned he had recently had a fundraiser for Norm Coleman at his house; Zimmermann chided Carlson for not inviting him. Carlson replied by saying he didn’t think Zimmermann [as a Green] would want to attend a Republican fundraiser.

Zimmermann responded by saying, “Liberals, Greens, Democrats, Republicans… it’s all money.”

August 31, 2005: Zimmermann meets with Carlson at his home. Zimmermann receives an envelope that contains $1000 in the form of 10 $100 bills, given to Carlson by the FBI. Zimmermann asks Carlson to contribute money to another Green candidate, Dave Bicking. Zimmermann also boasts of having forced a primary with a “straw man”.

September 9, 2005: FBI agents confront Zimmermann with video and audio evidence of bribery. Zimmermann lies and refuses to admit wrongdoing. Zimmermann’s house searched. Investigation announced.

September 11, 2005: Fifth Congressional District Green Party chair Steven Eisenmenger) claims USA Tom Heffelfinger canceled a press conference:

Eisenmenger said two members of the Zimmermann campaign were subpoenaed to testify Monday before a Hennepin County grand jury, but were told Friday their appearances had been canceled. He also questioned why U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger cancelled a Friday press conference where he was to release a statement on the case.

Jan. 9, 2006: Kyle Sampson memo to White House Counsel Harriet Miers: proposed working with “targeted U.S. Attorneys to encourage them to leave government service voluntarily; this would allow (them) to make arrangements for work in the private sector and ‘save face’ regarding the reason for leaving office, both in the Department of Justice and in their local legal communities.” (Nick Coleman, Star Tribune 4/1/07)

January 18, 2006: Former city councilman Dean Zimmermann indicted.

Feb. 14, 2006: Tom Heffelfinger, announced his resignation (effective Feb. 28, 2006).

Feb. 17, 2006: Paulose was named to be the interim US Attorney.

April 14th, 2006 memo from Kyle Sampson states, “Also, I would note that two on my original list have already resigned” (presumably Heffelfinger and Graves).

August 10, 2006: Zimmermann convicted on 3 counts of accepting cash.

November 7, 2006: DFL candidate for Rebecca Otto claims she was the victim of Green Party dirty tricks in this You Tube video.

December 9, 2006: Rachel Paulose confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate’s last act of the session at 3:00 a.m (Saturday morning).

December 19, 2006: Former Minneapolis Councilman Zimmermann Sentenced to Federal Prison.

March 9, 2007: Rachel Paulose Sworn in as US Attorney for the District of Minnesota at ceremony at Saint Thomas. Thomas Heffelfinger, was not invited (Nick Coleman, Star Tribune 4/1/07)

March 21, 2007: City Pages article on flawed research that claimed Mayor Rybak was investigated by Heffelfinger. Heffelfinger says, he cannot comment on investigations that did not result in charges. But it doesn’t take a scholar to read between the lines: “Rybak should be pissed off,” Heffelfinger says. “That’s irresponsible for someone to publish something like that.”

April 5, 2007: “…three of her top administrators — First Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marti, second in command; civil division head Erika Monzangue and criminal division head James Lackner — voluntarily resigned those positions, reverting to simple assistant U.S. attorney status, reportedly in protest over Paulose’s management style. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, she was noted for dressing down underlings and quoting Bible verses on the job.

April 7, 2007: Pioneer Press reporter, Ruben Rosario complains that Rachel Paulose doesn’t release information … even about “Cubby the Bear” to the press.

On April 17th, 2007: The AP reported that Ms. Paulose had been contacted for voluntary questioning by the US House Judiciary Committee in relation to the “firings of 8 U.S. federal prosecutors”

In the course of their investigations into the U.S. Attorney scandal, the Congress should investigate whether the White House intervened in the Zimmerman investigation and request that all evidence shown in open court be released to the media. In order to restore public confidence in the U.S. Department of Justice, the public needs to see for themselves that Gary Dean Zimmermann was guilty of bribery.

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  1. Joseph Conrad said on June 20th, 2007 at 8:50pm #

    Rachael Paulose and Monica Goodling clearly need to join Zimmermann in a period of confinement for a continued unwillingness to admit to the blatant dishonesty in their words and deeds – as ATTORNEYS AT LAW no less. The women are turning out to be as deceitful and devious as the men in their failure to speak the truth… even when under oath. So much for the Constitution and the Bible-thumping of and breast beating of Ms. Paulouse.

    The Democratic majority in Congress will ultimately get its ducks in a row on the firing of the US AGs – I hope and pray. Once they do,
    Ms. Goodling will be revealed and disgraced as the deceitful
    ‘professional’ she is. Mr. Griffin will do some well deserved ‘time’ with an ill-tempered chocolate ‘brother’ named ‘Bubba who will give him a REAL reason to ‘Cry’ for his racist voter ‘caging’ activities. And
    finally Ms Paulouse will have a lifetime to preach the Gospel to the
    African-American ‘Disinfranshised’ once her role in the firings is revealed. All Praise to Mr. Conyers!